Alibi V.27 No.29 • July 19-25, 2018 

Arts Feature

A Sanctuary for Self-Expression

Southwest Shootout Poetry Slam invites the best of the West

The stifling heat of Albuquerque summers can suck the energy right out of you. When asked to reconcile the miracle of swamp cooling with the inferno waiting outside your front door, it takes a will stronger than my own to sacrifice the luxury of crisp comfort for a few minutes in the sun.

Unfortunately, the decision to stay inside also means isolation—but not from the things we need separation from. If you’re anything like me, it means trapping yourself in a depressing digital world that, despite the promise of boundless terrain, feels incredibly joyless and constricting.

A constant stream of dismal news, mind-numbing meme culture and fruitless argument sets in motion a tedious cycle of discouragement, boredom, frustration and, eventually, despondency. In the vast void of the internet, escape is impossible; expression is insignificant; resistance is futile.

What we need, what we crave, is connection. Humans are social beings; we are inspired, educated, nourished by one another. By restricting ourselves to our cramped corners of existence, we cede to impotence and despondency. We relinquish our power, our humanity. We clip our own wings.

In our real world, our shared spaces that grow emptier by the day, our strongest allies are self-expression and shared experience—and nowhere are these ideals celebrated more emphatically than the slam poetry stage.

The restless world of slam poetry is a place of exuberance and anguish. Reason succumbs to passion; reality dominates pretense. It is a sanctuary for pure human being, without apology or expectation. All that matters there is an open mind, a loving heart and a fearless tongue.

This week, Albuquerque welcomes slam poetry teams from all over the region to the 15th Annual Southwest Shootout Poetry Competition. Stellar poets from Colorado, Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona and—of course— New Mexico will be braving the spotlight in order to flex their metrical prowess for the public.

The preliminary bouts of the competition will be hosted at Zullo’s Bistro (509 Central Ave. NW) on Friday, July 20 with performances beginning at 7pm; the event is free and open to the public.

The real spectacle comes a day later, however, when the KiMo Theatre (423 Central Ave. NW) will host 10 finalists on their stunning (and criminally under-appreciated) stage. The championship round will boast these elite rhapsodists in all their silver-tongued, spirited glory as they put their deepest truths on display for the world.

Tickets run a mere $10 (or $15 at the theater) for the finals and doors open at 7pm on July 21. Arrive on time. You won’t want to miss a moment of their eloquent, impassioned articulations, which serve as a valuable reminder of the deep emotion that runs through and unites humanity.

You never know what word will light the fire under your own belly and inspire you to take that first step into the exciting, empowering spotlight—but I’d put my money on it soaring into the world from the liberated lips of a slam poet.

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